Mobility = Flexibility + Strength


I want to take a moment to remember why we work out. Is it the mental break from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives? Or is it general fitness that we are trying to gain so that we can live a healthy lifestyle, take care of our kids, and do the things we want to do? For some it may be to increase performance in a sport, or activity like running, intermural activities or CrossFit. In any case we want to be as efficient as possible in our efforts. If we are going to be efficient then we need to make sure and hit all components of fitness. Nutrition, cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, mobility, and proprioception (body awareness) are the key components to fitness. Everyone has his or her own list of things that make up a “fit or healthy” individual. I have comprised mine using my experience in the medical field as a Physical Therapist for 9 years and being in the fitness industry for now 17 years. These are all pieces of a pie that when put together as whole make up a fit, healthy body.

I want to draw your attention today to mobility and flexibility as they relate to one another. Mobility is the ability of a tissue, muscle, tendon, or joint capsule, to move and be moved through a full range of motion (ROM) in a pain free manor. Flexibility is the quality of bending easily without breaking. In our case we are referring to muscle tissue.

Realize that our body adapts to the forces that we put on it. Its pretty amazing machine we are given right? If we lift weights we get stronger. If we write a lot we get a callus. And when we sit all day every day we get tight. Our bodies are not made to sit at a desk. We are made to hunt and forage and move around. Also realize that everything we do is in front of us. We type, we drive, and we eat. All things that, along with our good friend gravity, will pull our shoulders forward, push our chin out, shorten our upper traps and hamstrings (along with about nine thousand other muscles), and lead to lower back and cervical (neck) pain.

What we don’t realize is that this static positioning leads to restrictions in myofacia, and muscle. Myofacia is a tissue that surrounds, contains and helps our muscles glide upon one another. These restrictions, much like scar tissue, are laid down in an unorganized fashion. When tissue is unorganized it is rigid and sticky. We need it to be mobile just like our muscles.

In order to counter act the effects that this has on us, we need to mobilize and stretch to increase our flexibility and movability.

Preferably we need to do some type of dynamic warm up to increase circulation to the muscles which increases heat and pliability of the tissue. Just give me two to tree minutes of movement. You can mobilize and stretch a cold muscle but is it the most effective thing to do? I think not!! Once we have gotten our blood flow going we want to use foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or what ever your choice of mobility tools may be. Breaking up restrictions prior to stretching is key in maximizing efforts to gain ROM and flexibility. Ideally we mobilize a muscle for two to three minutes then we follow up by stretching that muscle for at least 30 seconds three times per muscle group. So now we are breaking up unorganized tissue and lining it back up so that, if it is a muscle we are talking about, it can contract and relax, which in turn increases strength. This will also allow the muscle to circulate blood and nutrients more efficiently, which increases healing, and recovery.

Is it easy to just stretch or roll a bit because someone somewhere told you to and you are just checking a box? Yes, but if we want to make real change in our tissue we will make a little extra effort and do the things we need to do to stay fit and healthy. Just to recap, mobility before stretching will increase pliability in the tissue, which increases blood flow and nutrient delivery, as well as realigning muscle fibers to make it more efficient at contracting and relaxing. This in turn will help increase the strength and effectiveness of that muscle.

So what your saying is that mobility will increase strength as well as flexibility? YES!!!!

The Good Kind of Stress


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When you finish a CrossFit workout do you feel completely wiped out? Do you work as hard and as fast as you possibly can? If you do, you are creating good stress on your body.

Stress creates adaptation. It usually goes one of two ways.

With minimal effort, you do not put enough stress on your body. You will adapt to be slower and weaker. Basically, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you stop challenging yourself, you will become stagnant in your progress and possibly even backtrack.

With maximal effort, you will stress your body enough to make it adapt into a stronger, faster machine. When you move faster, lift heavier, and rest less during a workout, your body will adapt, making it easier the next time you workout.

This is why I call it good stress.

There are a few ways your muscles can adapt.

Neuromuscular adaptations happen the fastest compared to other adaptations. Your body can recruit more motor units for a muscle contraction. This is called motor unit recruitment. The more motor neurons that are recruited, the stronger the muscle contraction will be (you will be able to lift more weight).

Hypertrophy is another way your body can adapt. This can happen in a couple of ways. Your muscle fibers can get bigger, or your muscles can increase the amount of glycogen (energy) they store.

Your body can also get more efficient at buffering lactic acid. When you get to the part of your workout when your muscles start to burn, you are feeling that moment when your body is reaching lactate threshold. This means you’re producing more lactic acid than your body can get rid of, and then your muscles cannot contract. Over time your body will adapt by buffering it out more efficiently so you can workout for longer at a higher intensity. Just be aware that training at your lactate threshold will require mental toughness because it is not comfortable. Some adaptations do not come so easily!

Blood capillaries will become more efficient to supply muscles with oxygenated blood. Your muscles can also develop more mitochondria to produce more energy for your muscles. Even your fiber types can change depending on what type of training you do (fast twitch or slow twitch).

There are also other adaptations that occur such as cardiovascular, bone, respiratory, and hormonal adaptions.

You need to create stress on your body by moving faster, lifting heavier, etc. Then your body will make adjustments and adaptations to get better. If you struggle to lift it, your muscles will get stronger. If your legs cannot sprint anymore, your will become more efficient at buffering out the lactic acid.

Once your body adapts to the stress, you have to increase the stress. This means you have to work faster, lift heavier, etc once your body gets used to it.

There is always room for improvement!